Sunday, February 28, 2010

Wen Tzu - Verse 156, Part I

from Verse One-Hundred Fifty-Six
Laws are originated to assist justice; to take laws so seriously that justice is abandoned is to value the hat and shoes while forgetting the head and feet.
~ Wen-tzu: Understanding the Mysteries ~
In modern parlance, the above passage could be stated as: Following the letter of the law, but not the spirit. It typically occurs when people -- particularly bureaucrats -- refuse to accommodate unique circumstances that don't mesh well with a specific regulation, protocol, rule, law or socially recognized way of doing things.

Let me offer an example of what I'm referring to, one taken from the life of the Smith family. Della and I purchased our home through the USDA Rural Development Home Loan Program (our mortgage is partially subsidized). In reporting our income to USDA on an annual basis, we run into the same problem each year.

My wife works as an in-home care provider through a program that is financed through state and federal moneys. While she works for specific families (deemed the employers), her employment is managed and paid by a state agency. Because she is not expressly a state employee, USDA treats her as if she is a business owner and each year requests her business plan for the upcoming year.

Of course, we can't produce such a plan because Della does not own a business! So, each year we must go through a convoluted rigmarole trying to convince USDA representatives that all we can produce are her past pay slips and, possibly, her own calculations of what she might earn for the coming year. Her calculations would be pure guesses because the clients she takes care of are old, sick and may die at any moment (her sole client last year died unexpectedly). If her chief client died tomorrow, Della would basically be out of work until what time she was hired by a different family.

Because USDA officials tend to follow very strict procedures, they seem unwilling to make any allowance for these unique circumstances. In essence, they seem to have forgotten the spirit that underlies the purpose of this program. Each year we have to arm wrestle with them before they finally relent in some form. Yet, we know we will have to go through the same tired routine the following year!

This post is part of a series. For an introduction, go here.

1 comment:

  1. stationarypilgrim2/28/2010 05:42:00 PM

    Wonderful posting... and thanks for including me on your list of wandering taoists! Have a wonderful day!


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